My Gypsy Life

Pulling my cart out of the room where I taught first period this morning, the phrase My Gypsy Life popped into my mind. I thought again about this blog. It has begun to nag me: the question of whether I’m going to write here this school year. I have not just been on an extended summer vacation from writing, although my initial break started as that. My focus here for the last year has been a window into school, primarily writing about my perspective on the beginning year of high school with my ninth graders, and what little bit I learned about parenting teenagers by making my own mistakes on my two children when they were that age. Teaching freshmen for five years, I seemed to have plenty of fodder.

If I keep the blog, I might should rename it. This year, I made a change. I am now teaching AP Language and Composition to juniors. Even more drastic from moving up two grades and into AP, I have become a part-time teacher. This was a move of my choosing to make room for other things in my life, one of which was writing. Oddly, the thing I was making room for hasn’t quite moved in.

For one thing, a part time teacher is ‘homeless’ at school, meaning, understandably of course, I don’t have my own classroom anymore. In some ways that is liberating. I’ve always hated doing bulletin boards. I don’t have to dust my desk. I no longer compare my room to the cool history teacher’s classroom whose every inch of wall space is covered with colorful posters and art.

But learning to teach homeless has been a new experience. I have a cart. Fortunately, I travel between two other English teachers’ rooms, so the distance isn’t far and the classrooms are familiar. Julius Caesar and Chaucer decorate the walls, not chemical chains or periodic tables. Still, finding a place to land when I am working at school but not teaching has posed some challenges. I tried the copy room, which has two nice club chairs and an ottoman, but it adjoins the faculty rest room, which besides the copy machine is a big draw for traffic. Besides, there was no room for my cart inside.

The teacher’s lounge is just that – a place to lounge – and thanks to generous parents, a place to raise one’s cholesterol and get fat.

The first month of school, I seemed to be in a constant state of flux – my reading glasses in a cabinet in one teacher’s room, my textbook in another, my copies left on the machine yesterday, and my computer cord plugged in the classroom where I taught last hour. I would need a pencil only to have red pens on my cart. It’s taken me two months to establish new habits, find new ways to store things, and see how lightly I can travel.

A colleague with an extra desk in an office adjoining his room offered me desk space, and I happily accepted. I now have a place to land before and after classes and a desk to clutter with papers. I am beginning to feel at home teaching in my gypsy life.

Only seconds after the phrase, My Gypsy Life, crossed my mind, my water bottle turned over on my cart. Apparently the top wasn’t secure, and water went everywhere, soaking papers and smearing ink. Ironically, atop my cart was a copy of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, “This Is Water” which I would assign to my students the very next day.

Among the many good points in that speech is that we get to choose how we see things, and that sometimes the most important things are like water to a fish, so obvious and essential that we miss them.

Whether or not I have anything to say here about juniors and AP Lang and part-time teaching remains to be seen, but I will be writing somewhere because for me…this is water.

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